Tuesday, July 24, 2018

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis

ConnectiCon XVI was held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, CT on July 12-15. In my opinion, ConnectiCon is not your typical Comic Convention; it is more of a multi-fandom convention that caters to enthusiasts of all things pop culture. This includes anime, manga, video games, board games, role playing games, animation, comic books, speculative fiction, cosplay, and the TV/movie industry.

I always enjoy chatting with the featured guests, and this year Lisle Wilkerson and Steve Blum were definitely the most interesting. Lisle is the voice behind Tekken's "Nina Williams" and "Christie Monteiro" among others. For non-gamers, Tekken is a fighting video game franchise that was created, developed and published by Namco. Lisle also appeared in the Academy Award winning film Lost in Translation as well as playing a principal role in the indie film Kamataki. Lisle is super cool and very personable. She shared tales of growing up in Japan which lead to her fluency in the Japanese language. She currently works as a freelance voice-over actor, and because she is based in Los Angeles, works as a local correspondent for the Academy Awards, Emmys, Golden Globes, and Grammys for Japan. As an interpreter, she's worked with Keanu Reeves, Makoto Shinkai, author Marie Kondo, and Morning Musume. My three favorite things about meeting Lisle were her smile, her behind-the-scenes story of her MMA match and the fact that she toured Studio Ghibli. Not the museum, the actual working studio!

Then there's Steve Blum. Steve is a voiceover actor with hundreds of credits in his career. For instance Steve voiced "Starscream" in the Emmy award-winning Transformers: Prime, "Wolverine" in X-Men animated movies, TV, and games, and recently voiced "Zeb Orrelios" in Star Wars: Rebels. In 2013, Steve was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the Most Prolific Voice Actor in video games, with 333 credited appearances. Steve shared interesting stories about his career, citing the character "Steve Spiegel" from the anime Cowboy Bebop as one of his favorites. He delighted fans by briefly getting into character when signing autographs. For instance, while standing in line I heard "Guilmon" from Digimon and "Reptile" from Mortal Kombat X. He told one fan that "Guilmon" holds a special place for him as he was the first nice character that Steve ever played. I love the fact that Steve was genuinely interested in his fans' stories and memorabilia, no matter how obscure. He was hysterical in his panel with fellow voiceover actors Nolan North and Troy Baker, which was the highpoint of my Sunday.

Lisle Wilkerson with fan Mitchell Maknis
Steve Blum

ConnectiCon had a really strong Artist Colony as well as some amazing vendors in the Dealer room this year. One of my favorite things about conventions is discovering artists or catching up on new work by artists I am already familiar with. I may have gone a little crazy, but there were so many great things to choose from. Here are some of my purchases:

Skull notebook by Dreaming Doe
"Owl Prince" by David Woehr of Grinning
Narwhal Industries
Sweet Creature" Succulent planter
by Soojin "Sandy" Kim of Skimlines
Wonder Woman & Little Mermaid
Wallet as well as a Disney Villain pouch
by Jolly Otter Studio Shoppe
Scooter modeling the Marvel's Avengers Dog
Neckerchief by My Nerdy Pet
Witch Mug and Wonder Woman
pillow by Argama Witch
Pins and Washi tape from
Maya Kern
Art by Khelekmir from Quite
Contrary Creations Artist
Cruella de Vil & Wonder Woman
sketches by Michelle
LaBranche of Chell Studios
Pins from Kristilyn of Zombie
Monstah Box created by Jose Souza III
His name is Horny
Shattuckite necklace created by Skully Kouture

As a voracious reader I am always impressed when conventions have cool authors. Two of my family's favorites at ConnectiCon were Dan Wells and Jason Fry. Both were on hand to autograph their books.

Dan Wells, a Hugo and Campbell award nominee, writes horror and sci-fi and is the author of the John Cleaver series, the Mirador series, the Partials Sequence as well as numerous standalone books. Dan won a Hugo in 2013 for his book Writing Excuses Season Seven that he co wrote with Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson. My son became a fan after seeing the film adaptation of his book I Am Not a Serial Killer starring Christopher Lloyd and spoke with Dan about the John Cleaver series. Dan shared that when he wrote I Am Not a Serial Killer, his publisher asked him to expand it into a trilogy. Dan said that complex characters enable a writer to expand on the original story, so the transition from standalone to a trilogy to six in the series was a natural progression. Dan also took some inspiration from the film adaptation of his book and wrote Over Your Dead Body soon after viewing the movie.

Jason Fry appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list for the novelization of Star Wars The Last Jedi and has written over 40 books and short stories that are set in the Star Wars galaxy. He is also the author of his own YA sci-fi series; The Jupiter Pirates. I've been a fan of Star Wars since the original movie hit screens in 1977 so I immediately targeted Jason as someone to visit. Jason picked up on my Star Wars vibe immediately and we engaged in a thoughtful and enjoyable conversation about the franchise. We even agree on our top three favorite Star Wars films: (in no particular order) A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Rogue One. One thing I really enjoyed learning is that The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson gave Jason access to alternate script versions to expand this official adaptation of the film into something quite unique. His newest offering, Solo: A Star Wars Story: Tales from Vandor will hit bookstores this September.

Dan Wells
Jason Fry

Cosplay is always big at ConnectiCon and this year was no exception. I cosplayed as "Cruella de Vil" on Saturday and was delighted to find my son "Carlos" from Disney's Descendants 1 and 2 among the attendees. My friend "Madame Medusa" and I were fortunate to encounter a posse of Disney villains including another fabulous Cruella! Followed by a few photos from my favorite fandoms:

Cruella catches up with Uma, Carlos, Harry Hook, and Gil
from Disney's Descendants 2

Madame Medusa (The Rescuers), Cruella de Vil (101
Dalmatians) [x 2], Hades (Hercules), Captain Hook
(Peter Pan), and Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

Solaire of Astoria from the role-playing
game Dark Souls
Marvel villain Doctor Doom
DC Bombshell Wonder Woman
The Dark Lord Sauron
Lord of the Rings
From anime Full Metal Alchemist
Gajeel Redfox from the anime Fairy Tail

Tales from the Borderlands characters
featuring Hologram Handsome Jack

This small vignette of my experience at ConnectiCon 2018 is really just the tip of the iceberg. If you're interested in attending next year, mark your calendars: ConnectiCon 2019 is scheduled for July 11th through the 14th. You can check out their website at: http://connecticon.org/registration/faq


  1. Fabulous review, Tracey Maknis... made me wish I had been there! Glad you and your family had such a great time! <3 :)